The contemporary art market is back on full steam, with statistics never seen before! Artprice’s publication was published

Basic data of the artefact market in 2021

The contemporary art price index rose to an all-time high in the early summer of 2021. The price increase in this segment has been around 400% since the early 2000s, the most significant price increase in the world. This is the most dynamic and profitable part of the art market. Its growth is clearly more impressive than the rise in the post-war segment, whose price index rose by less than half (178%) over the same period.

A total of $ 2.7 billion was changed hands at the contemporary art auction in 2020/21, an incredible number given the impact of the crisis caused by the coronavirus. The boom is all the more powerful as it is based on an unprecedented amount of transactions: more than 100,000 works have been sold, from just over 34,600 artists. These numbers are all new records. Never before has there been such a balance between supply and demand, with 70% of the works on offer finding a buyer.

Development of the Contemporary Art Price Index and the Artprice Global Index between 1998-2021. Source: Artprice

From a technical point of view, paintings continue to dominate the market, both in terms of value ($ 2 billion, or 73% of the total turnover of the contemporary segment) and the number of items sold (42%). Works made on canvas accounted for 82% of results above the $ 1 million threshold, compared to drawings (6%) and sculptures (6%). A fourth medium has also reached the 7-digit amount: this is nothing more than the $ 1 million result of nine NDPs, which is three times the value of photography.

Asia, or the eastward shift of the center of gravity of the art market

China, Hong Kong and Taiwan performed outstandingly in the second half of 2020 and the first half of 2021, respectively. Their combined contribution to the global contemporary market is about $ 1 billion, 40% of the total value. The Asian market is thus considered one of the most important hubs for the sale of contemporary works of art, and not only for Asian artists but also for an increasing number of Western artists.

Hong Kong has never been more active in the art market, and the results of the auction houses there are exceptional. The ratio of items remaining here is the lowest in the world: only 10%, compared to the global average of 30%. Hong Kong also boasts 129 contemporary art dealings that have surpassed the $ 1 million threshold. That number is six more than in the United States.

Top 3 Contemporary Artists Ranked by Auction Turnover (Asia, 2020/21). Source: Artprice

The biggest surprise of the 2020/21 period is the appearance of a Western artist on the podium in the Asian market. The great collectors of the East were able to bid on Basquiat’s most valuable works in Hong Kong, and they seem very willing to do so. On March 23, 2021, an Asian customer raised the value of Basquiat Warrior (1982) to $ 41.6 million, setting a new record in contemporary art in Asia. Indeed, after bringing a total of $ 118.2 million in the region in the 2020/21 period, the Basquiat market has clearly undergone a profound change.

Yoshitomo Nara’s success was more predictable. He is the most popular Japanese artist of his generation, whose signature is unavoidable in the Asian market. It closed the last period in first place with a total of $ 137 million and became the third largest player in the global contemporary art market, with sales of his works accounting for 5% of total world market turnover.

Liu Ye, who is on the third step of the podium, is surrounded by growing interest after being hosted by a number of impressive exhibitions in Asia and the United States. The only problem for collectors is that his paintings are relatively rare (about 350 pieces made in 30 years) and the goods are very high, so it’s no coincidence that the competition is high.

The western market

The U.S. market was able to record exceptional sales of $ 889 million after 2020/21, the best result in the history of U.S. contemporary art sales. The already very clear recovery in the summer of 2020 accelerated significantly in 2021, with a total increase in turnover of 113% just one and a half years after the start of the pandemic. The artefacts market seemed to rediscover its momentum: more than 20,000 contemporary items were sold in 12 months, making it the largest-volume sales in the world. It achieved an exceptional sales ratio of 84%, compared to the global average of 70%. No other western country has achieved such a good sales rate. And New York is still clearly the most important center of the Western market.

Distribution of contemporary art auction turnover by country. Source: Artprice

In addition, the French market has shown surprising dynamism, with a turnover of almost $ 60 million (up 44%), of which the French market accounts for 4% of the global market for contemporary art auctions, up from 2.3% a year earlier. kal. While the French market is based on diversity and the flow of affordable works, the economic strength of the London market depends more on the country’s highly sought-after national artists. The $ 364 million difference between the UK and France is really huge. Maybe France needs a Banksy? The artist raised more than $ 60 million at the most recent London auction, accounting for 15% of the UK’s total turnover from auction turnover in the contemporary art segment.

Top 3 Contemporary Artists Ranked by Auction Turnover (Western Market, 2020/21)). Source: Artprice

The contemporary market segment

The contemporary art segment (artists born after 1945, as defined by Artprice) achieved a historic performance in the first half of 2021, with a 50% increase in turnover compared to the first half of 2019. Meanwhile, neither the modern art segment (-8%) nor the post-war segment (-4%) was able to regain its pre-crisis intensity level.

Contemporary art now accounts for 23% of total global fine art auction turnover, up from 3% twenty years ago. Sales of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s artwork accounted for 4.3% of the auctions, making more than $ 300 million in six months (twice as much as Andy Warhol).

The recovery was even stronger as it was based on a record number of transactions: 51,616 contemporary works were auctioned in six months, an increase of 32% compared to the first half of 2019 (i.e. before the epidemic began), which is already the busiest trading period ever recorded. belonged to.

Contemporary artist with 3 highest auction records (2020/21); Source: Artprice


The demand for Jean-Michel BASQUIAT’s works is higher than ever before: 5 of the top 10 achievements of the period and 14% of the global auction turnover of contemporary art come from it. Collectors spent $ 385.8 million on 162 Basquiat items in 12 months.

The two most expensive paintings of the year (In This Case, $ 93.1 million and Versus Medici, $ 50.8 million) were traditionally sold in New York; but three other notable works also changed hands during Christie’s and Sotheby’s auctions in Hong Kong. In the first half of 2021, with more than $ 300 million behind it, Basquiat appears to remain the most successful contemporary artist in the secondary market throughout the year.

BEEPLE (1981-)

Last year, completely unknown to the traditional art auction market last year, BEEPLE is today one of the three most expensive living artists in the world.

With a single result that was not only colossal, but sold for online and non-fungible tokens, Beeple attracted its second-best contemporary art auction bid of the year. The NFT work offered at the first public auction, Everydays: The first 5000 Days (2021), hit a knock-off price of $ 69.3 million, compared to the $ 100 starting price, plus for an artist who had neither a gallery nor an exhibition and no there was no previous auction sale either. However, he had millions of followers on Instagram and could also enjoy Christie’s support. By selling just two lots, Beeple alone accounted for 3% of the auction turnover in the global contemporary art market.


The third contemporary artist on the podium of price records is Chen Danqing, of Shanghai descent but living in the United States since the 1980s, who raised his previous auction record by $ 21.7 million at the Poly International auction house in Beijing in early June. His picture Shepherds reached nearly $ 25.2 million, compared to a record $ 3.5 million at the same auction house ten years ago. Chen Danqing’s painting from his famous series depicting Tibetan scenes and people became the most expensive Chinese contemporary work of art ever sold at auction, elevating the artist to the international Top 20 contemporary artist.

The NDP is crazy

Technological Enlightenment … New Renaissance … Art Market Revolution … just a few terms used by the art world to enter the virtual world of NFTs and cryptocurrencies. The sale of Beeple Everydays: The first 5000 Days, a digital file in JPEG format and the first digital work ever offered at Christie’s, will have an earthquake-like impact on March 11, as Mike Winkelmann, a prominent figure in digital art ( Beeple) was among the three most expensive living artists. Having reached $ 69.3 million, digital art should now be seen as a medium that can truly create significant value.

The buyer of the first NDP in the history of public auctions, Vignesh Sundaresan is a 32-year-old Indian millionaire who has made his fortune in the world of cryptocurrencies. What he acquired is nothing more than a line of code referring to a virtual work created by Beeple, whose authenticity and traceability are guaranteed by blockchain technology. Sundaresan, the founder of one of the most important NDP investment funds (Metapurse), aims to create the world’s largest collection of NDP art. Three months before the acquisition of The First 5000 Days, its company, Metapurse, appears to have invested more than $ 2 million in Beeple’s digital works and then appears to have split ownership into digital tokens (NFTs) to make them available to Christie’s online. at the best times of its auctions, ie at the most favorable moment of the balance between supply and demand.

The NDP phenomenon has aroused huge enthusiasm from audiences. According to Christie’s, 22 million people, nearly 60% of whom were under the age of 40, signed up to sell The First 5000 Days. Several of them, investors with an abundant cryptographic portfolio, significantly heated up the bid. The auction houses sought to take advantage of the emergence of new customer communities focused on digital art in the market, so they did everything they could to include NFTs in their spring sales as well.

Sales of contemporary works of art by technique. Source: Artprice

The “black renaissance”

The remarkable rise of black artists is accelerating further, a global phenomenon that is transforming the composition of large museums, art fairs, private collections and the entire art market. After the recognition of black artists became an institutional priority, the demand for their works increased sharply, and this is also reflected in the prices of the works.

Top 10 African-born artists with the highest auction turnover (2020/21); Source: Artprice

Source: Artprice

Cover image source: Artprice

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